Last month Governor Chris Christie signed legislation canceling the mandatory early release program that set inmates free after serving only a portion of their sentence. He stated that it took away the discretion of the parole board to determine who warranted an early release. More recently, Christie backtracked on a plan to send drug addicted inmates into residential treatment programs. All of these changes are quite possible spurred by fear of looking soft and losing political clout.
Across the country lawmakers are making major changes to their criminal justice policies and laws as people from both political parties recognize the old way of doing things simply isn’t working. Prisons are bursting at the seams and inmates are released only to return again. But in New Jersey this same progressive movement doesn’t seem to be taking hold.
According to NJ.com, one lawmaker admits that others don’t want to “take the political risk” of appearing soft on crime. Apparently they don’t think the general public has enough common sense to recognize good, effective criminal justice policies from those that have proven time and time again to perpetuate the problems of the system.
Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat says, “Basically what they’ve told me is that any early release, as meritorious as this is, as helpful as this is in preventing recidivism, they don’t want to take the risk of anyone committing murders.” The end to the mandatory early release program was spurred by two released inmates who went on to commit murders, nevermind the fact that they would’ve likely done the same thing had they been released on a normal timeline.
The Christie Administration has mentioned they will be proposing a reentry program to help inmates find employment and stay out of prison. This would be a move in the right direction, though details are still unavailable.
Jeff Mellow of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice points out that appropriate housing, employment, education, and mental health counseling are just some of the things that can keep former inmates from reentering the system. These resources, plus the added supervision of a parole officer is what was thought to have made the former early release program effective.
Sometimes, even before someone is convicted of a crime, these resources can be used to lessen their sentence and improve their standings in the community.
If you are facing charges for a crime and are interested in avoiding prison time, there may be options available to you. Contact my offices today for a consultation on your case